“I beg your pardon,” said Mr. Werner; “I’m not a manager; I’m merely what is called in our profession a ‘producer,’ or a ‘stage director.’”
“Well, you’re the man, anyhow,” asserted Patsy. “So what have you to say for yourself, sir?”
“If you were annoyed, I humbly apologize,” he returned. “Perhaps I was unintentionally rude to frighten you in that way, but my excuse lies in our subservience to the demands of our art. We seldom hesitate at anything which tends to give our pictures the semblance of reality.”
“Art, did you say, Mr. Werner?” It was Beth who asked this and there was a bit of a sneer in her tone.
“It is really art—art of the highest character,” he replied warmly. “Do you question it, Miss—Miss—”
“Miss de Graf. I suppose, to be fair, I must admit that the photography is art; but the subjects of your pictures, I have observed, are far from artistic. Such a picture, for instance, as you made yesterday can have little value to anyone.”
“Little value! Why, Miss de Graf, you astonish me,” he exclaimed. “I consider that picture of the falling wall one of my greatest triumphs—and I’ve been making pictures for years. Aside from its realism, its emotional nature—’thrills,’ we call it—this picture conveys a vivid lesson that ought to prove of great benefit to humanity.”
Beth was looking at him curiously now. Patsy was serious and very attentive. As Uncle John asked his visitor to be seated his voice betrayed the interest he felt in the conversation.
“Of course we saw only a bit of the picture,” said Patsy Doyle. “What was it all about, Mr. Werner?”
“We try,” said he, slowly and impressively, as if in love with his theme, “to give to our pictures an educational value, as well as to render them entertaining. Some of them contain a high moral lesson; others, a warning; many, an incentive to live purer and nobler lives. All of our plots are conceived with far more thought than you may suppose. Underlying many of our romances and tragedies are moral injunctions which are involuntarily absorbed by the observers, yet of so subtle a nature that they are not suspected. We cannot preach except by suggestion, for people go to our picture shows to be amused. If we hurled righteousness at them they would soon desert us, and we would be obliged to close up shop.”
“I must confess that this is, to me, a most novel presentation of the subject,” said Beth, more graciously. “Personally, I care little for your pictures; but I can understand how travel scenes and scientific or educational subjects might be of real benefit to the people.”
“I can’t understand anyone’s being indifferent to the charm of motion pictures,” he responded, somewhat reproachfully.
“Why, at first they struck me as wonderful,” said the girl. “They were such a novel invention that I went to see them from pure curiosity. But, afterward, the subjects presented in the pictures bored me. The drama pictures were cheap and common, the comedy scenes worse; so I kept away from the picture theatres.”